Martha's Vineyard Commission Defers, Yet Again, Its Decision on Elder Housing

By JULIA WELLS

In an effort to iron out a series of confusing events that began last week, the Martha's Vineyard Commission voted last night to go back to the drawing board and take a new vote on a plan for a small addition at a well-known elderly housing complex in Vineyard Haven.

The new vote on Hillside Village III will not take place until next week.

Last week the commission stalemated in mid-stride during a vote on the project. First a vote to approve the project with conditions deadlocked, and then the commission stopped short of taking a vote to deny the project.

Last night commission members agreed in effect to start all over again with deliberations and a vote, first voting to reconsider the vote of last week, and then voting to send the entire project back to the land use planning subcommittee (LUPC) for deliberations.

"I got the impression that we leapt to a full commission discussion prematurely last week while there were still some problems that needed broader discussion," said commission member Linda Sibley, who is eligible to vote on the project but was not present last week.

Mrs. Sibley led the move last night to send the project back to LUPC for deliberation and more work on conditions.

"It's been my experience that we do a dreadful job of writing conditions on the floor while we are in the context of also deciding yes or no on a project," Mrs. Sibley said.

Last night commission members avoided any prolonged discussion about what went wrong last week, deciding instead that they could get a fresh start on Hillside Village III.

The LUPC meeting will be held on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the commission office in Oak Bluffs. A new vote on the project by the full commission is now expected to take place at the regular MVC meeting next Thursday.

Commission member Tristan Israel moved to reopen the written record until the end of the day on Monday, but after some discussion about the problems with public notification, the commission killed the idea.

The project calls for building a third five-unit apartment building in the Hillside Village complex off the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. The project is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). The applicant is Island Elderly Housing and the project was devised under Chapter 40B, the state law that governs affordable housing projects. The apartment complex is planned as housing for elderly residents of low and moderate income.

The project has been revised a number of times since the first public hearing in an attempt to resolve site problems. At first the building was located too close to the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road, and after feedback from members of the commission and MVC staff, the building was moved back from the road. The commission also decided to protect the Lagoon pond by specifying a wastewater treatment system that exceeds the requirements of the state sanitary code. A recent study of the pond done by the commission shows that the pond needs special protection because it is at or near its limit for nitrogen loading.

Last week commission members recommended some small final adjustments to the site plan as they prepared to vote on the project, but then amid apparent procedural confusion, a motion to approve the project with conditions deadlocked 5-5.

Paul Strauss, a member of the commission who had voted against the project last week, moved to reconsider the vote last night. Mrs. Sibley then moved to send the entire project back to the land use planning committee. Both motions were approved.

In other action last night, the commission denied a request from Island Elderly Housing to waive a $1,600 application fee for the project. Commission fees cover the cost of staff work and make no money for the commission.

The present Hillside Village complex includes six apartment buildings. The complex has been built in phases over the years; the first phase was built in 1981. The entire complex is for elderly people with low and moderate incomes.